Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun has appointed David Madigan as the next provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. A distinguished and innovative leader, Madigan comes to Northeastern after a successful career at Columbia University, where he oversaw an academic and research enterprise across several schools and research centers as executive vice president for arts and sciences, and dean of the faculty of arts and sciences.
“I see Northeastern as one of the few universities that’s really moving higher education in new directions in an aggressive and necessary way,” said Madigan, whose focus on global connectivity and lifelong learning position him to build upon Northeastern’s distinctive approach to the future of higher education, as outlined in the university’s academic plan Northeastern 2025.
Madigan said he was drawn to Northeastern’s leadership in lifelong learning—an anytime, anywhere approach to learning that equips people with the tools and knowledge to succeed as advances in technology transform jobs and economies around the world.
“Higher education needs to change,” Madigan said. “We need to focus on meeting the needs of learners throughout their lives, to be more flexible in going to the students, not just waiting for them to come to us—and research institutions such as Northeastern are leading that.”
Aoun wrote in a message to the university community that Madigan emerged as the strongest candidate from “a diverse pool that included an extremely deep and impressive field of academic leaders.
“He brings to Northeastern a powerful mix: his record of leadership at top institutions, where he advanced priorities aligned with Northeastern’s own; his renowned expertise in statistics and mathematics, fields that are integral in the age of AI; and a global background in private-sector research, partnership, and entrepreneurship,” Aoun wrote.
The provost is the university’s chief academic officer, and leads Northeastern’s nine schools and colleges, its expanding research enterprise, information technology services, and university libraries. The provost also collaborates with the senior vice president for finance in order to set the university’s budget and financial priorities.
At Columbia, Madigan oversaw five schools, which included the management of five academic deans, 27 departments, and more than 50 research centers and institutes. He led initiatives to expand lifelong learning programs at the university, and to make its faculty and study body more diverse. He helped launch a program to ensure that Columbia’s first-generation students would have the support they needed to achieve success in a rigorous academic environment.
Prior to Columbia, Madigan held various leadership roles at Rutgers University—most recently as its dean of physical and mathematical sciences. Before that, he was a faculty member of the statistics department and part of the world-renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the University of Washington.
In 2012, Madigan was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has long been a leading researcher in the fields of healthcare and Big Data. An native of Ireland, Madigan has led large-scale global collaborations involving researchers from academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies and government regulators in the United States and Europe.
He’s currently one of the leaders of the Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics program, which is composed of researchers around the world who harness the power of Big Data to study the safety and efficacy of healthcare practices.
The research collective has recently pivoted to work on “a whole host of COVID-19 ventures,” Madigan said—work that includes studying the effects and usefulness of existing drugs to fight the disease.
Madigan will succeed James C. Bean as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. Bean will conclude his five years of service on June 30, 2020. Madigan will start on May 1 in an advisory role, and assume the provost position on July 1.
Bean was critical to the creation and implementation of Northeastern 2025, the university’s academic plan and blueprint for the future. His service, and his recruitment of a number of academic leaders, “will provide the university with strength and resilience for many years to come,” Aoun said.
Madigan said he’s looking forward to stepping into the challenging new role.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” he said. “Northeastern is a dynamic place that’s redefining education for the future, and I want to be part of it.”
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